It's 1957. Marion works for a Memphis record company, roaming the South in search of great songs from Black bands. He buys their songs to be re-recorded by White artists up north. Marion has two families, a White family in Meridian, MS, wife Christine and sons Lloyd and Linden and a Black family in Birmingham, AL, girlfriend Rosa and son Aaron. The pressures of maintaining these two families, attempting to guide and instruct his sons, and generating a return on an investment from his wealthy father-in-law Whitney, spur Marion on in his efforts.
Aaron, mixed race but appearing White, is a talented baseball player and will be a good prospect; however, Marion believes he must maintain the illusion he is White. But Aaron idolizes Black players and is inclined to be true to his origins. Son Lloyd, on the other hand, is a racist, thoughtless and selfish as shown when he forces himself on his girlfriend Becky. Lloyd soon joins the Ku Klux Klan, under the guidance of racist Whitney, the Grand Dragon of the local chapter. Linden, by contrast, resists racist pressures from his brother and grandfather, and maintains his kind nature.
Marion is of mixed race, and like Aaron, appears White. His black mother, who gave him up to a White family when he was a boy, is in a rest home, and Marion supports her there and visits her when he can.
Becky turns up pregnant, but Lloyd refuses to have anything to do with her or the child. A back-alley abortion clinic procedure results in her death, plunging her parents into grief. Aaron meets and takes a fancy to a Black girl. Marion, discovering this, has words with Aaron and winds up striking the boy during the argument. He apologizes, but damage has been done.
Rosa, educated in law but barred from practicing in the South, discovers a new destiny managing a girl group called the Jonettes. Marion initially encourages her but is dismayed when she announces her plan to move to Detroit, where new freedom and opportunity beckon to her and Aaron. Marion attempts to help Aaron understand the issues he faces with a visit to the rest home to meet his Black grandmother. However, the gesture backfires and Aaron realize Marion is living a lie and trying to pass that lie down to his own son. This alienates the two, but Marion begins to see things in a new light.
The Klan plans a bombing in Little Rock and persuades Lloyd to bring the bomb there. Then Becky's distraught and vengeful father crashes his car into Lloyd's truck, injuring Linden and setting off the dynamite with an explosion that destroys the truck and kills Lloyd.
Marion returns home for Lloyd's funeral. Soon after, Christine receives word from the rest home that Marion's mother has died. Christine never knew about this mother, and never knew that Marion was mixed race. She orders him out of the house. After a heated confrontation, Marion leaves.
With Rosa up north with Aaron, and having now lost his son Lloyd, and wife, as well as access to Linden, Marion returns to bury his mother and take stock of the changes he's undergone. We end on Marion heading north to Memphis and a new life, whatever form that new life may take.